Archive for the ‘ TV Shows ’ Category

10 ESPN 30 For 30 Documentaries You Should Watch

With the Hot Stove burning away, the nights getting cooler and longer, there’s nothing better then curling up in front of the TV and watching some great shows. ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series examining important stories in sports has often been held up as one of the pinnacles of the networks programming and for good reason. Here, in no particular order, I suggest 10 documentaries from the series covering a wide range of topics that I feel should be watched. Nearly all are available on Netflix and are often repeated on ESPN 2.

 

Catching Hell

Dir. Alex Gibney, 2011

Catching Hell focusses on the infamous foul ball popup in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS at Wrigley that created a martyr of a fan who got in the way. It also (rather intrusively and not as successfully) tries to compare the incident to Bill Buckner’s gaffe in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and how a player faced the hate of an entire city. Director Alex Gibney makes it a personal mission to uncover the events of that cold Chicago night and uncovers really that there were many villains that night, and a heap of fate. Although flawed (the Buckner stuff should have been a separate episode) all baseball fans should check this one out.

Playing For The Mob

Dir. Joe Lavine & Cayman Grant, 2014

The engrossing story of the Boston College Fixing Scandal of 1978-79 plays out like a movie. It has the players involved, not all maybe as honest as they say, the Mob, including the infamous Henry Hill portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and the prosecutors who tried bring down some of the biggest members of the NY Mafia by proving their involvement in this scheme. Mafia stories are almost always highly fascinating and this one is no exception, guided through by Liotta and including some very revealing interviews you’ll come away still trying to work out who was really guilty on the floor of the court.

The Best That Never Was

Dir. Jonathan Hock, 2010 

The poignant story of a man who had everything to look forward to, only then to see it all slip away due to bad judgments from those around him and himself. Dupree was a can’t miss football prospect, a RB with such speed and power it took your breath away. A college career showed glimpses of that greatness but it was hampered by greed, injuries and immaturity. The Best That Never Was follows the man from his glory to his mistakes whilst he reflects in his modern day role.

The Day The Series Stopped

Dir. Ryan Fleck, 2009

Game 3 of the 1989 World Series has become a footnote in history. The Oakland Athletics, up 2 games to 0, headed into Candlestick Park to play the Giants and take an even more commanding series lead. ABC started their pregame introductions and then the world shook. The worst earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the turn of the century struck and baseball became an afterthought. This emotional documentary looks beyond what happened in the confines of Candlestick and how the rest of the area suffered, something that seems to be forgotten when we look back to 1989.

June 17th, 1994

Dir. Brett Morgen, 2010

A lot of events across Sports were happening on June 17th, but the date will always be known as the day of the bizarre White Bronco police chase with OJ Simpson. This 30 for 30 examines the event as if one was switching channels. We hear announces in Golf, Baseball and Basketball break into their coverages to comment on the crazy events in LA. An audio, visual experience like none other in the 30 for 30 series, June 17th 1994 is one to experience.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson 

Dir. Steve James, 2010

Allen Iverson was an incredibly gifted college basketball player with a future in the NBA almost a guarantee. However a violent brawl in his home town launched him nationally into a talking point of racial tensions in Virginia. No Crossover doesn’t set out to prove innocence or guilt, it merely steps back and lets the people involved talk and give their side of the story ultimately allowing the viewer to make up their own mind.

Pony Excess 

Dir. Thaddeus D. Matula, 2010

SMU was one of the best Football Programs in the country during the 1980’s, then it was revealed how they became so and the NCAA voted to give the school it’s harshest punishment it could give, the Death Penalty. Pony Excess looks at how SMU would buy their players in flagrant disregard for NCAA recruiting practices and how they would eventually weather through their punishment.

Jordan Rides The Bus

Dir. Ron Shelton, 2010

We all know Michael Jordan the basketball great, but did you know that he spent a year in the Minors under manager Terry Francona? Jordan Rides the Bus explores the devastating personal event that spurred MJ to retire from basketball and take on the daunting task of trying to become a professional baseball player.

Ghosts Of Ole Miss

Dir. Fritz Mitchell, 2012

A look into the turbulent south in 1962 where violent civil unrest ruled against the dreams and desires of integration. Ole Miss was at the heart of this turmoil and yet the 62 Rebel College Football Team did the best that they’ve ever done before or since. This film looks into whether they rose despite of the troubles, or because of it.

The HOUSE of STEINBRENNER 

Dir. Barbara Kopple, 2010

Set against the Backdrop of the Demolition of the old Yankee Stadium, ‘House’ looks at the legacy of The Boss, George Steinbrenner and his son Hal who is now stepping forward into the running of the storied New York Yankees. My favorite part of this documentary (and yes I am a Yankee fan so there is a bias) is not so much the interviews with Hal or the clips with George but the memories of the office workers at the Stadium who are reliving a lot of the past while moving items to their new future home.

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 1: The Sopranos

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

1. The Sopranos

1999-2007, 6 seasons, HBO, Created by David Chase

No. 1 is probably of little surprise to those who know me. What am I saying probably, it certainly shouldn’t be considering how much I talk about it. The Sopranos is my favorite TV show of all time, it had one of the biggest effects on me personally and in my TV viewing habits.

Briefest summary possible for the 2 people who have lived in a cave the past 20 years and have no idea what the show is about. The Sopranos follows Jersey Mob Boss Tony Soprano and his two families, one in crime and one in love. The show often uses the framing arc of having Tony discuss (or at least trying to without incriminating himself or breaking Omertà) events with his shrink who he starts seeing after suffering severe panic attacks.

Tony Soprano is one of the greatest characters in TV history played by one of the greatest actors to ever grace our screens, James Gandolfini who tragically passed last year and is sorely missed. Jimmy brought nuances to Tony that brought him truly to life and away from the trappings of a Mob Boss Stereotype. ‘T’ is a complicated man, we love him and hate him, we are shocked when things happen to him and are shocked when he does things to others. He’s a human being and in many ways a likable one, he’s also a criminal and the show never really lets us forget that fact.

Both of Tony Sopranos families are filled with members who are just as memorable as Tony, Carmela, Tony’s Wife, (played by Edie Falco and yes thats who my cat, Edie, is named after) is long suffering but not innocent, she knows who she married. Paulie, Sil, Bobby, Chris, AJ, Meadow, Hesch I could keep throwing these names out and I could never do them all justice.

I can never be not emotional about this show, I started watching during my late teenage years and each year the new season was like returning to a reunion of friends and family. I never wanted to be Tony, but I admired certain qualities that he brought (not crime related haha!) In fact I started having panic attacks during work but at the time being on my own I had no idea what they were, seeing the show and Tony’s relating of the experience was what actually made me connect the dots. In an ironic twist in my mid 20’s when I was seeing a therapist to help deal with my depression, I actually got her hooked on the Sopranos which she had never seen before!

I love the Sopranos, I love it like I love the Yankees, Baseball & America with only the two things beating it being my Mom and my kitty. I don’t watch the show on an endless loop as that weakens the powerful episodes and the characters, I visit it all over again once every 2 years to experience the masterpiece that is this show.

The Sopranos is available on DVD and a few seasons are on Blu Ray, I would honestly fall on my knees and beg you to watch if you haven’t before. The scene I posted below was powerful when I first saw it but after going through my life the past 5 years it’s gotten even more poignant and touches areas that really hit deep.

The Sopranos on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 2: Deadwood

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

2. Deadwood

2004-2006, 3 Seasons, HBO, Created by David Milch 

The West as reimagined by Shakespeare. Okay thats kind of a bloated statement regarding Deadwood because to be honest, Deadwood is better then anything Shakespeare ever wrote (Oh no he didn’t says English teachers everywhere) because along with the lyrical language (beautifully punctuated by some of the best profanity to be spoken by an actor) we have a human story about life in a frontier town that engages the audience through out and draws them in, like an audience at a play, yet accomplishes more with the story telling then any play could.

Guess you can tell that I love Deadwood a helluva lot huh? Well I’m a huge fan of Westerns, golden era to the spaghetti’s so really liking Deadwood for me was a foregone conclusion, but Loving it as much as I do comes round to the mentioned incredible storytelling. Mixing reality with a fiction based alternate history storyline, we get the Sherif, the bar keep, the journalist, the rich widow but it’s done in such a refreshing way with humor, hubris and good deal of the foulest language you will ever hear that it’s mesmerizing. Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Powers Boothe and so, so many others give the performances of their lives, matching the rugged, stunning backdrop of the Blackhills vistas.

Deadwood only lasted 3 seasons, many pointing to a 4th season being cancelled due to money being used from the Deadwood budget to prop up the cast fees for another show (the No. 1 on my list) and the promised 2, 2 hour movies haven’t come to fruition (the popular comment from the creators and HBO is that it’s possible but unlikely) but the 3 seasons we have are perfect, in fact the unexpected ending of the show allows for an interesting closing to what would become the final episode. Like peeking in to a point of history, we see a place for a few months and then we move on wondering what happened to the characters we met and left behind but always treasuring the moments we got to spend with them.

I’m not going into detail with the characters and story because I want you to explore it for yourself. Deadwood the complete series is on DVD and Blu Ray from HBO and believe me, you’ll find that Deadwood is one Helluva Place To Go. The following is a collection of scenes showing the deft mix of humor, violence and horror that Deadwood weaves so well.

Deadwood on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 3: Mad Men

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

3. Mad Men

2007-2015, 7 Seasons, AMC, Created by Matthew Weiner

It is in my humble opinion that Mad Men is the best show currently in production. A reflection of life through the 1960’s, the show enchants us with it’s wonderful characters, detailed period setting and incredible scripts.

Mad Men revolves around the world of Don Draper (played by the superlative Jon Hamm) an Creative Director for a Madison Avenue Advertising company in 1960’s New York. Don is a complicated man, with a complicated past that affects how he deals with everyone around him. The show isn’t just totally focused on Don though, other employees and family members are introduced and followed through out the show, all played by some of the best ensemble cast’s you’ll ever find.

Creator Matthew Weiner worked on HBO’s The Sopranos and it shows with his attention to detail in the characters he puts on screen and the situations they are put in. No one would confuse Mad Men with 24, the show has a very deliberate pace that gets you there when it want’s you to get there, and this often is cited as a turn off for the show’s (hopefully few) detractors but to me, and many others, it’s one of the reasons why the show is so haunting & memorable, you feel like you’ve been through something incredible after the 40 minutes are up. The first 6 seasons are currently available on Netflix and the final season, split into 2 parts, is airing on AMC. I know that in 2015 I will be mourning the loss of another amazing TV show, just as I did when No.’s 1 & 2 of my Top 10 list finished.

The following clip is from one of my favorite scenes in the early run of the show, it perfectly combines the magnetism of the Don Draper character, the lyrical quality of the dialogue, and how genuinely affecting the shows story lines can be.

Mad Men on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 4: The Wire

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

4. The Wire

2002-2008, 5 Seasons, HBO, Created by David Simon

The Wire is probably as ‘real’ as TV gets outside of documentaries. A gritty, no holds barred look into the life of both sides of the Law in Baltimore, the show introduced some of the most fascinating characters we’ve ever seen and stimulated debate as to how the country treated those fighting for the law, and those fighting against it.

Across the 5 seasons, The Wire delves into different factors of life in present day Baltimore. From the cops who work to keep the drugs off the street, to the criminals pushing it, the politicians who run the city and the kids who suffer at the bottom of the food chain, all is given a fair and ‘warts and all’ portrayal. One thing you will have learnt by the end of the first few episodes, Good and Bad is not so clear cut in the world of The Wire and in fact, one of the most rooted for and liked characters, Omar, is nothing more then a stick up artist.

Creator David Simon was a journalist who hung around the Baltimore Homicide department and other departments in the early 90’s. He published a book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (well worth the read) which was later adapted into a popular and critically acclaimed NBC Show, Homicide: Life on the Streets. After HBO adapted Simon’s and collaborator Ed Burns (a former Baltimore Police Detective who met Simon during the years he was a journalist) book The Corner about drugs in Baltimore into a critically acclaimed mini series they green lit a TV show expanding on the themes on both books and The Wire was born.

The Wire was never a commercial hit when it aired on HBO though it was often cited by Critics in a very popular light. Viewing figures were always low and it dodged cancellation a number of times but with the shows release on DVD, word of mouth grew and it gained a new life in the home video market after the final episode aired where it seems like most people who are fans, have seen it.

The reason to me why The Wire isn’t higher on my Top 10 List is mostly due to Season 5 being such a let down. Season 4 is incredible, and it’s such a departure from what came before it that I guess anything that could follow would be a disappointment but the path Season 5 follows till the end is just too formulaic for me, totally not what the show has given us before. Don’t be put off from watching the whole thing just because of this though as even in 5 the last 2 episodes pretty much redeem all the episodes that come before it.

I leave you with the opening scene from the very first episode, probably one of the greater opening scenes ever put to celluloid.

The Wire on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 5: 24

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

5. 24

2001-Present, 9 Seasons, FOX, Created by Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran 

24 was like nothing we’d ever seen before. A show set in real time (including commercial breaks) that’s season lasted over an entire day and kept you coming back for more on every cliff hanger, it helped revitalize serialized network TV which had started to drag in the early 21st Century. Coming out at a time where America needed a hero like Jack Bauer, someone who will do anything for good in a not so clear cut world, the show’s popularity led it to be brought back from retirement in 2014 with the special 9th Season, Live Another Day currently airing on FOX.

24 is well known around the world and I’m sure you don’t need me rehashing the plot and premise (it’s much more fun to experience the twists and turns for yourself!) but for those who haven’t seen it, check out the trailer below. I adore 24 for it’s mostly top notch acting (Kiefer Sutherland gives one of the best and believable action hero performances you will ever see) it’s well staged action and it’s engaging plot. Even Season 6, which is generally known by fans as it’s weakest season, has episodes that will keep you hooked. 24 on a bad day is often better then the Network shlock that is put out and call’s itself an action genre show. 24 is currently only available to stream on Amazon Prime but I recommend picking up the complete season 1-8 DVD set, once you start you won’t be able to put it down!

24 on Amazon

 

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 6: Twin Peaks

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

6. Twin Peaks

1990-1991, 2 Seasons, ABC, Created by Mark Frost & David Lynch

One night a few years ago during the baseball offseason I was faced with nothing to watch. Turning on my Xbox and loading up Netflix I slowly surfed through the movie and TV options hoping to find something that caught my eye when a TV show I had heard mentioned many times scrolled into view. Intrigued but still not sure, I put out a tweet asking if anyone could recommend Twin Peaks to me. Thankfully I got an answer from my good friend Lisa (@mochachick8) and my TV viewing changed forever.

Twin Peaks was a cultural phenomenon when it aired in the early 90’s, one that has still permeated to this day. My first experience of it was one of those VH1 I love the 90’s shows which had a segment dedicated to it, being in my mid teens and too young at the time to really appreciate it I merely filed away the information. The show opens with the finding of the corpse of teen Laura Palmer, a seemingly Golden Girl of the Washington State town of Twin Peaks, further investigation by an FBI Agent named Dale Cooper (played by the ever awesome Kyle MachLachlan) reveals that not only does Palmer have many secrets, but the town does too. The show takes on a mystical, paranormal feel whilst deftly balancing the drama of the lives of the town folks in ways only co-creator David Lynch can do successfully. Both he and Mark Frost created a fully living, breathing town that fills the audience with wonder, amusement and at times downright fear.

I really don’t want to get too deep into the story for fear of eking out even the smallest spoiler that could ruin a newcomers experience (something that Lisa made sure didn’t happen as she patiently waited for me to make my way though the seasons) all I can do is really emphasize just how much of an experience Twin Peaks is and to this day still holds up. So many shows that came after hold a true debt to what Lynch and Frost let loose onto this world, and it’s one of the saddest moments in television that the show was cancelled. A movie, Fire Walk With Me, was released by Lynch a few years after the show ended which serves as a prequel and should definitely not be seen before you’ve watched the 30 episodes of the series.

Twin Peaks is an eclectic mix of Film Noir, Paranormal Horror, Thriller and Soap that, bar the middle of season 2, just fits together perfectly. As soon as I finished my first viewing I just wanted to find as much information about the show as possible. With renewed interest stoking the talk of a return and the Show getting a lavish Blu Ray treatment this year, 2014 is a perfect time for you to visit Twin Peaks, just beware of the Owls, they are not what they seem…

The following clip is the least spoiler filled one I could find and is likely what most people think of when they hear someone mention Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks on Amazon

 

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 7: Boardwalk Empire

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

7. Boardwalk Empire

2010-2014, 5 Seasons, HBO, Created by Terence Winter

HBO knows what I like and they hit another home run with the excellent Boardwalk Empire. The 1920’s were one of the most fascinating times in early 20th Century American history, from Prohibition to the excesses of the fashion, architecture and the lifestyle the era has provided a goldmine for writers and directors for years. Boardwalk Empire deals with the strengthening of organized crime due to the failed experiment that was the 18th amendment, Prohibition. Through the eyes of corrupt Atlantic City Treasurer Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (based on real figure Enoch Johnson and played in a career defining role by Steve Buscemi) we see the risings of the New York, Chicago and other east coast cities crime organizations and figureheads that would mold the landscape for crime in the coming decades.

Exec Produced by Martin Scorsese (who also directed the pilot) the show continues the tradition laid down by The Sopranos and Deadwood of being a 12 episode movie per season. Sadly entering it’s final year Empire has brought the roaring twenties to life like no other and I will sorely miss checking in on the life of Nucky. The Show is brutal to the extreme and explores themes no one else really wants to touch but hang in there because you experience a universe that is in the peak of dramatic tellings.

Boardwalk Empire on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 8: The West Wing

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

8. The West Wing

1999-2006, 7 Seasons, NBC, Created by Aaron Sorkin 

The multiple award winning show that showed Washington politics as how we wished they were, The West Wing is a masterclass in intelligently written political drama strengthened by fully fleshed out characters portrayed by an A List cast. Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet is often voted as one of the best Fictional Presidents ever put on screen, not so much for his politics but that he’s a flawed human being who really cares about the people, and the world around him. The real heart of the show is Bartlet’s supporting staff with his Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, Communications Director and their assistants being given most of screen time dealing with problems on the hill, legislation, world affairs, personal problems and not letting down the President. The West Wing is not politics as how they are, but how they should be. I won’t discuss overarching plot points as I don’t wish to spoil some of the best storytelling in a 40 minute medium we’ve seen.

One of the most expensive Network Shows ever made (and it looks it!) and one of the most successful during the awards season, The West Wing holds up very well today. All episodes are available to watch on Netflix and are often shown on Cable. You don’t have to be a fan of politics to love this show, just a fan of good human drama. I leave you with this clip from one of my favorite episodes, In Excelsis Deo (S1 E10)

The West Wing on Amazon

My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 9: Mystery Science Theater 3000

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

9. Mystery Science Theater 3000 

1988 – 1999, 11 Seasons, KTMA – The Comedy Channel – Comedy Central – The Sci Fi Channel, Created by Joel Hodgson 

Okay bear with me here as I explain the premise of this hilarious show. Two Mad Scientists decide to launch their janitor into space and make him watch bad movies (known as ‘experiments’) to see how long he lasts before he goes insane. To combat this, the Janitor named Joel builds 4 Robots. 1 to steer the ship he’s marooned on whilst he’s watching the movies (Gypsy), one to record everything (Cambot) and two to watch the movies with him and keep him sane (Tom Servo and Crow T Robot.) Still with me? The way they survive these bad movies is by riffing their way through these cinematic atrocities and thus keeping their sanity intact. Now I usually get 3 questions when trying to explain this show to people who have never heard of it and I’ll give you the same answers I gave them. Yes it’s a real show, No it’s not a Kids show, and Yes it’s extremely popular. Also the theme song above explains it a helluva lot better then I can!

The show is one of the funniest in TV history. There are some clunkers in the near 200 episodes, mainly from movies that are just so bad no amount of jokes will make them funny, but on the whole it’s hard not to get at least a dozen hearty laughs from an episode. Half way through it’s run Joel left and was replaced with one of the shows writers Mike and this often causes the argument “who was better?” amongst fans (this authors preference is Mike) and there were also numerous changes to other cast members over the years but the show remained fresh, funny, relevant and good. The famous Shadowrama technique that allows us to see Joel/Mike & the bots at the bottom of the screen during the movie has become iconic and is often mentioned/riffed in other comedy and Sci Fi works.

There are many episodes on Youtube (including my all time favorite, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank) as well as Netflix so if you have a spare hour and a half please check them out! I have posted below the trailer to the one and only full length movie Mystery Science Theater (or MST3K as we ‘MSTies’ call it) made which gives you a pretty good idea what the show looks like in action. Hope you enjoy!

MST3K on Amazon